Caring for a Loved One After a Stroke
Recovering from a stroke can be a challenging time for stroke survivors as they relearn how to care for themselves, overcome mobility issues, or change how they communicate. Caregivers can help by encouraging their loved one to be as independent as possible, helping them make their own decisions, and promoting participation in leisure activities. Caring for a stroke patient should be tailored to individual needs, such as resolving problems with coordination and balance, overcoming difficulty with memory or thinking, and adapting to changes in bowel and bladder habits.
Caregivers may ease the transition from hospital to home by taking steps to ensure the safety, comfort and continuing recovery. Changes to the home can be customized to meet the patient’s specific requirements in certain areas, such as the:
Kitchen. If a stroke survivor uses a wheelchair they may benefit from an over-the-stove mirror so they can see what is on the stove and a roll-under stove for easier access. Make sure oven mittens and hot pads are available to prevent burns and a fire extinguisher is within easy reach.
Bedroom. Make sure there is a clear pathway to the bathroom to avoid tripping over something in the dark. Place a commode chair next to the bed if the stroke patient has difficulty getting to the bathroom quickly enough. Change handles on cabinets so drawers can be opened with a fist, rather than fingers. Place clothes in easily accessible drawers and lower the hanging bar in the closet. Help the stroke patient select clothes that close in the front, have Velcro fasteners rather than buttons or zippers, and avoid pull-over shirts. Buy dressing aids such as a long-handled shoe horn to help the stroke patient get dressed on their own.
Bathroom. Install grab bars to assist with stability getting into and out of the shower. A bathmat or non-skid bath decals on the floor of the shower provides traction on a slick area. A transfer tub bench, foldout bath bench or a roll-in shower can make it easier to get in and out of the tub or shower. Make sure levers on faucets have long handles so they are easy to turn. Mark settings on heat control knobs so the stroke patient can select the proper temperature. You may need to adjust the water heater temperature to prevent scalding. Purchase a long-handled sponge and soap pump to help aid in the washing process. Place towels and towel bars at a height within easy reach.
Caregivers also may be involved in coordinating the stroke patient’s rehabilitation which is vital to long-term recovery. Under doctor’s orders, the stroke survivor may require such services as physical therapy, occupational therapy, nutritional care, rehabilitation counseling or speech/language pathology. These services may be provided in the home, or at long-term care facilities or rehabilitation hospitals.
Caregivers should remember that they are not alone and should not feel overwhelmed in accepting the responsibility to care for the stroke survivor. Support groups are available to address the needs and concerns of family caregivers. For online help, visit the American Stroke Association website.